Assessment in special education is the process used to determine a student's specific strengths and deficits (Pierangelo & Giuliani, 2008). Assessment also determines if a student is eligible for special education support and services. This process involves much data and information collection which is then used to interpret if a student requires interventions or special education services. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), states are responsible for meeting the special needs of eligible children with disabilities. To find out if a child is eligible for services, the student must first receive a full and individual initial evaluation.
According to IDEA, infants and toddlers with disabilities are defined as individuals under three years old who need intervention services due to developmental delays as measured by appropriate diagnostic procedures or instruments in the areas of: cognitive development, physical development, communication development, social or emotional development, and adaptive development; or have a diagnosed physical or mental condition (http://nichcy.org). The goal is to address the unique individual needs of students the earliest time possible. .
According to the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (2012), under IDEA, school-aged children and youth (aged 3 through 21) may have special education and related services provided for them through the school system. IDEA states that there are thirteen disability categories a student may qualify for: autism, deaf-blindness, deafness, emotional disturbance, hearing impairment, intellectual disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, specific learning disability, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, or visual impairment (including blindness). Proper identification of a child's disability helps school systems address the student's deficits.